Urban planning is an inherently knowledge-intensive activity. Even the most prosaic zoning change or development proposal can generate reams of memos, transcripts, minutes and notes. Planners routinely manage statistical and geographic data for research and analysis. In fact, this material proves so voluminous there is even a book on how planners can collect, manage, and share information effectively.
A comment I heard recently reminded me how often these systems can go awry. After calling a government agency to track down information about a program, my wife was told "the person who knows about it" wasn't in so she would have to call back. Is this common situation inevitable? The field of knowledge management argues it can be avoided through deliberate organizational strategies. Without them, individual employees hoard critical information and managers fear the impact of retirements or departures. For the disorganized organization, hiring new employees can also require a lengthy orientation process. When it comes to government organizations, these problems are not merely about organizational inefficiency. Disorganization can result in costly mistakes, legal trouble, and effect the ability for the public to access information in a timely way.